Exercise and Depression: How Fitness Helps Combat Depression and Anxiety

If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, it can be hard to find the motivation to even get out of bed, much less hit the gym. However, studies show that even moderate exercise and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. There are clear links between your physical health, amount of exercise, and depression. If you’re feeling down, a quick workout might be the trick to help you get back on track.

Exercise and Depression: Physical Health and Mental Health Are Connected

First, it’s important to note that chronic depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and other lifelong mental illnesses are serious. If you’re experiencing intense bouts of depression or anxiety, see your doctor. And if you have thoughts of suicide, immediately call 911 and seek treatment.

Even if you are struggling with clinical depression or anxiety, physical fitness can help ease your symptoms. And for those of you who are just “down in the dumps” or experiencing more mild symptoms of anxiety or depression, exercise can help you overcome your struggles.

Research tells us that mental health and physical fitness are connected.

How Exercise Helps Overcome Depression and Anxiety

Exercise helps depression and anxiety in two main ways: chemically and psychologically.

First, regular workouts release neurotransmitters our brains need to stabilize mood: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Physical activity also releases endorphins that give us a temporary “high,” and help us to feel happier and less stressed. 

What does that mean? Exercise isn’t just good for our bodies. It’s also good for our brains. Physical activity can help us create new neurons and can actually change the chemicals inside our brains, many of which impact our mood. 

Second, exercise helps us overcome depression and anxiety by increasing our self-confidence. Think about how you feel after a workout. You’re proud, you feel powerful, and you feel better about your body and yourself. 

The more often you work on your physical fitness, the more confident you’ll become. And that increased confidence can have a positive effect on your overall mood. 

What Exercises Help Depression?

Here’s the good news: almost any physical activity can help you combat depression and anxiety. If you’re struggling, you don’t need to find the motivation to run a 5K or spend an hour lifting weights. Put on your shoes and go for a walk. Ride a stationary bike. Do some yoga or pilates. 

Research shows that even 15 minutes of moderate activity can drastically improve your mood. 

The key is to find something you enjoy doing. If you’re already feeling unmotivated or stressed, the last thing you want to do is do a workout you hate. So, maybe it’s time to try something new or get back into an activity you used to enjoy.

You might even consider a group class or working out with a partner. Not only can exercise help depression, but you’ll also forge new friendships. Social interaction can also reduce feelings of hopelessness and anxiety.

Until next time, take care of yourself and one another.